top of page

Czar Mine

Czar Shaft

Copper Czar Shaft.


Czar Mine Bisbee Arizona

Czar mine Circa 1906


In the 1884, Annual report of the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company Ben Williams urged the development of a new hoisting shaft on the Copper Czar Claim. Sinking began on the Copper Czar Shaft in 1885. This shaft was to replace the inadequate Copper Queen Incline shaft, which only had two small compartments one for a manway and another for hoisting. Ore was hoisted by raising small one ton mine cars up the narrow shaft. Soon the name was shortened to simply the Czar Shaft. In 1886, due to low copper prices the Copper Queen Consolidated Mining Company, began constructed a smelter next to the Czar Shaft. Soon the tall enclosed headframe was hidden among a myriad of mine buildings. After 1888 the Czar began to hoist ores from the Holbrook and Cave Mining Company operations as well as its own.


A new change house was constructed in 1900 and included 12 showers. Unfortunately, this change house was short-lived, because on June 24, 1902 a fire broke out in the rope shop and quickly spread to change house. $12,000 worth of damages was done. Three reals of cable were ruined, including one that had been prepared for hoisting, the mine car trestle to the waste dump was burned down and $3,000 of personnel possessions belong to the miners were lost inside the change house. The men were without a regular change house for a little more than a month. On July 29, the completion of the new change house was celebrated with a largely attended dance in the building.


Because of the shaft’s location near Mule Gulch and the ground broken up at least partially by mining subsidence, the Czar was susceptible to dramatic changes in water flow. The fierce monsoon rains that occur from July to September caused havoc. September 1 , 1903 after a rain some of the crosscuts were flooded with two feet of water . On the 400 level was a pump station. The pumps were steam driven and as a result the station was uncomfortably hot. In 1906, the Copper Queen decided to experiment with electric pumps at the Czar, but they wisely chose to leave the steam pumps installed in case of emergencies. This mine was the pumping shaft both the Czar and Holbrook Mines. In the Holbrook Mine water was collected on the 500 level and pumped to the 400 level and to the Czar. Only between 300-400 gallons a minutes was handled by the Czar pumps. Much of the Czar water was copper-rich acid water formed from rain water that had drained through oxidizing sulfide stopes. This water contained considerable copper values and was collected separate from any relatively clean water found underground. The intense reactivity, of this water made it difficult to handle. Any exposed, metal that came in contact with the water quickly became dissolved into the water and replaced by a crude copper precipitate. Pumps with porcelain coated cylinders and wood lined steel pipes carried the fluid to the surface. After 1906, this water was poured into a precipitation vat filled with scrap tin cans. The cans were replaced by the dissolved copper and this resulting precipitate was sent to the smelter for further refining.


Alterations in the railroad lines on the surface near the Czar, forced the demolition of the miner’s change house. A new, larger change house was constructed with 225 lockers. On April 28, 1907 the aging shaft was shut down for retimbering. The work was completed from just below the 200 level to the surface and all the stations were retimbered. Work was completed on July 7 and work soon began on enlarging the pipe compartment. During this time it was decided to allow the miners of the Shattuck & Arizona Mining Company to be lowered down to the 200 level Czar. The miners would walk entirely underground to the 800 level of the Shattuck Mine rather than climb up the hill along Uncle Sam Gulch.


Until 1910, exploration for new ore was focus on going deeper. Interest began to develop in examining Queen Hill. Raises were driven and converted into interior shafts and began to mine ores inside Queen Hill above the collar elevation of the Czar Shaft. Although, theses shafts were originally considered part of the Czar Mine, by 19 14 they were considered as the Southwest Mine and no longer part of the Czar. The only World War I casualty from Bisbee mines was George Cameron a private in the 30th infantry was killed in the Battle of the Argonne Woods in October 1918. Before the war he had worked in the Czar. Bernard G. Hunick was another Czar miner who was combat veteran who had fought with the 158th regiment at Verdun, St Mihiel and the early part of the Meuse. He survived the war.

Czar Mine 1914 Bisbee

A 1914 view of the Czar mine. Part of the buliding surrounding the headframe has been removed exposing the sheave wheels.  The abandon  precipitation plant and remains of the smelter  are on the right.



 Another new change house was built in 1918, with concrete floors with lockers and ropes with pulleys to hang clothes. This change house was shared with part of the Southwest Mine. Subsidence became problematic and the Czar hoist had to be realigned. During this time miners entered the Czar through the Holbrook Mine and the Copper Queen Incline. The city had difficulty building a sidewalk across the old slag dump, because the mining operations along the Dividend fault. This forced the city to construct them from bricks rather than concrete. The major subsidence continued until the 1940's ,with end of mining in this area.


During the 1920s, both the Southwest men and the Czar were used as a mining school. The men were taught basics skills, such as terminology, finding their way around and learning jobs. These mines were both active, producing mines at the time. After the men were proficient, many were transferred to other mines, but some did remain in the Czar-Southwest. Reserves were dwindling in and the mine worked off and on until August 1930, when it was shutdown. In 1932 it reopened for lessees. Leases had been granted on sections of the Czar, since at least 1911. The early lessees worked alongside Copper Queen/Phelps Dodge miners working areas containing small or difficult to mine ore. After 1932 the Czar was mined exclusively by lease until 1942. During this year the Czar 300-400 levels were opened for exploration by Phelps Dodge. In 1944 all leases were canceled and mining ceased. The remainder of the year was spent salvaging trolley wire, rail, pipe and fittings.


The Phelps Dodge Mercantile took over the Czar change house in 1945 and converted it into a garage. The shaft itself was maintained for a couple years after World War II. Famous for its dark glassy blue azurite crystals and equally impressive malachite locals would explore the abandoned mine search for minerals.  Unlike, the legends the czar was not filled with beautiful crystals. Minerals had obtained a high value, since the early days of mining. Miners took every, specimen they could find and lessees mined the scraps of ore. So the Czar was relatively barren of specimens. Of course, even by the 1940s large sections of the mine were recorded as caved. After the Copper Queen Incline caved in 1958, Mineral collectors used two points of access. The manway of the main shaft which was in decent condition, but below the 200 level the shaft had struck the Czar fault and water poured into the shaft. An alternative way was too climb down the Crazy Horse Pete Incline to the 300 level. This route avoided much of the water. During the 1960’s the 100 level was largely caved as was most of the 200 level. Sections of the 300 were open as was a large part of the 400 level, The 400 level was open into Holbrook workings. With the ending of leases mining Phelps Dodge purchased all of the lessee’s equipment and abandoned it underground. There were two well stocked tool rooms abandoned in the Czar. Dry they still contained substantial useable equipment. (A beautiful pipe threader and set of dies, a pipe cutter a monkey wrench, ax, pipe wrenches were recovered on mineral collecting trips, all in new-like condition.) Unlike, other mines partially filled timber stations were also left behind. In areas salvaged pipe and rails had been stacked for reuse. Also on the 400 level was dam where clean water had been collected for use.

Czar Mine and change house 1918

Czar shaft and new change house in 1918

In 1963 the shaft was covered with a concrete cap and the Crazy Horse Pete was bulk headed and then muck was shoveled over the bulkhead to keep out trespassers. Deprived by the cap of the essential air flow to keep the shaft timbers from decaying, the Czar Shaft collapsed .Cranes were brought in to help remove the headframe and the shaft was filled. About this time the hoist house was also torn down. Parts of the Czar have remained accessible, most recently in 1988 a section of the 200 level near the Uncle Sam Shaft was sealed by a collapses. This was an interesting area that contained an underground precipitation plant. Other areas on the upper levels remain open, but would be extremely difficult to access.

Czar mine jokes 1921

Czar base mine Jokes from Bisbee Daily Review in 1921

Diagram of the Czar shaft Bisbee Arizona
bottom of page